Kenyan Jerusha Kananu wins the Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize

Jerusha Kananu Marete

Jerusha Kananu Marete delivers her acceptance speech after being announced as the winner of the 2022 Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi on August 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

Kenyan writer and theatre expert Jerusha Kananu Marete won the Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize 2022 at a ceremony held at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi on September 23. 

Ms Marete's book Echoes of Military Souls won with over 800 votes, representing 81.84 per cent of the votes cast. 

Vincent de Paul's Inevitable Desires First Love came second with 94 votes (9.28 per cent), while City of Cannibas by Duncan Ouma Obuya came third with 56 votes (5.53 per cent).

In her acceptance speech, Ms Marete expressed her gratitude to her family, friends, colleagues and mentors for their support. 

She said she was inspired to write the book by the desire to provide readers with a diverse range of poetry that exposes them to unfamiliar stylistic nuances and cultivate a deep respect for their cultural heritage. 

Echoes of Military Souls is about what is happening in Africa today, terrorism in Somalia, the Central African Republic and Mozambique, and the threat of the terrorist group Boko Haram in West Africa.

The event attracted participants from across Africa, some of whom joined virtually. 

Among the participants were luminaries such as Austin Bukenya of Makerere University, Prof PLO Lumumba, retired Justice Aaron Ringera and Dr Gameli Tordzro, the visionary founder of AdinkraLinks Poetry Network - a space that fosters collaboration and growth among creatives. 

They congratulated Ms Marete for writing emotionally resonant and powerful narratives.

Participants called for the support of established writers and the nurturing of emerging talent.

Speakers emphasised the role of self-publishing in the advancement of Pan-Africanism and how Ms Marete's achievement has placed her in the ranks of literary giants.

During the event, the air was filled with an enchanting blend of African flair, pomp and vibrant colours, setting the scene for a celebration that exuded energy and creativity.

Jerusha Kananu Marete

Winner Jerusha Kananu Marete receives a trophy from Dr Peter Kirika from the Ministry of Education in Nairobi on September 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

People from across the continent tuned in online to share in the magic. At its heart, the Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize 2022 ceremony was a tribute to the spirit of independent publishing, celebrating the unique voices and stories that might otherwise have remained hidden.

Musician Kamanu's dynamic live band took the spotlight, their music carrying an irresistible rhythm that resonated with people of all backgrounds. 

Poets Sant Mark and Swinton Nkatha entertained the audience, as did a dance performance by a contemporary dance troupe led by Kevin Simple Bwoy.

Zimbabwean poet Obert Dube also inspired the audience during the event, which presented a unique fusion of visual and verbal storytelling.  

Prof John Mugubi, a prominent figure who has dedicated his career to mentoring a generation of writers, took to the stage with the wisdom of years of literary engagement.

Colonel (Rtd) Julius Muthamia Minyori, whose distinguished service in the Kenya Defence Forces spanned over three decades, brought a new dimension to the event.

Having travelled the world on various missions as a UN military observer, he highlighted the often overlooked narrative of military life in the context of African history. 

His speech underscored the importance of shedding light on less discussed topics, contributing to richer and more inclusive narratives that reflect Africa's diverse experiences.

Prof Mohamed Bakari emphasised the importance of book prizes and awards specifically for African writers and books. 

He stressed the importance of recognising and promoting literary achievements within the continent and fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the African literary landscape. 

Prof. Wangari Mwai, Vice-Chancellor of the Presbyterian University of East Africa, stressed the importance of thorough research in writing. 

She said the accurate presentation of stories enriches the narrative and serves as a vital means of preserving the authenticity of art and culture.

The event was also attended by Ms Alice Kairichi, Senior Curriculum Development Officer at KICD and Dr John Kanyuithia Mutunga, Member of Parliament for Tigania West.  

Dr Muthomi Thiankolu emphasised the importance of consulting legal experts not only when challenges arise in the publishing process, but from the very beginning. 

The Deputy Director of Education in the Ministry of Education, Dr Peter Kirika, represented the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mr Ezekiel Machogu, who was the chief guest at the event.